You may remember the case of Michael Morton.
He is the Georgetown man who spent 25 years in prison for killing his wife before DNA on a bandana found behind his house showed his wife’s blood and skin cells from a man who was not Morton.
A search of a nationwide criminal database found a match for that DNA.
Mark Norwood, a dishwasher from Bastrop, has been indicted not only for Christine Morton’s brutal murder but also for the murder of an Austin woman a year and a half later.
Last week something unprecedented happened in the case.
The district attorney who persuaded a jury of Morton’s guilt suffered through five grueling days in a Georgetown courtroom as a judge heard evidence and arguments that he had illegally covered up evidence of Morton’s innocence.
Ken Anderson, now a Williamson County district judge, testified repeatedly during a rare court of inquiry that he had little memory of the trial or the case.
But he swore that he must have told Morton’s lawyers about the evidence.
It included a police report that Morton’s neighbors had said they saw a suspicious man walking into the woods behind the Morton home shortly before the murder.
It also included the transcript of a conversation between Morton’s mother-in-law and the lead deputy investigating the case.
In it she gave an account of her grandson telling her he had seen the “monster” who murdered his mother.
It’s a stunning account for its accuracy in matching the evidence, and for the fact that the boy said the “monster” was not his father.
Morton’s defense attorneys testified they had been told about neither the stranger nor about the grandmother’s account.
Sitting on the stand with a box of tissues in front of him, Anderson got tearful as he protested his innocence:
"I ran an office that did things right. It was competent. We got things right."
Well, not exactly.
Michael Morton spent 25 miserable years in prison.
His son was twice orphaned, coming to believe his father had murdered his mother.
And an Austin woman suffered a brutal death very similar to Christine Morton’s.
But as far as Anderson was concerned, he made no mistakes.
When his attorney asked him to tell Morton how he felt, Anderson turned to Morton and said:
“I apologize that the system screwed up. It obviously screwed up. And I beat myself up on what could have been done differently, and I frankly don’t know.”
Here are some things that could have been done differently.
He could have told the sheriff’s office to pursue the neighbors’ accounts of a suspicious man nosing about early in the morning.
He could have taken the 3-year-old boy seriously and laughed at the lead investigator’s preposterous theory.
Instead, Anderson joined the investigator in believing that Morton had flown into a murderous rage when his wife had fallen asleep while he sought to have sex.
But before killing her, he put on his scuba-diving wet suit in order to disguise himself from his son.
And Anderson could have chosen not to take the extraordinary step of keeping his lead investigator from testifying at trial.
Under the rules he would have had to turn over to the defense the report of the early-morning stranger and the transcript of the grandmother’s account of what the boy saw.
And he could have chosen not to tell the jury, based on a mere sliver of bad science and his own imagination, that Morton, having murdered his wife, used her hand to masturbate.
It wasn’t that “the system screwed up.”
He may or may not be found to have committed a crime, but he clearly did not commit justice.
Michael Morton summed it up best:
"I think we saw someone who is still struggling with denial and anger, a man who has spent at least three decades in power who for the first time is having to answer for his actions.”